With the miserable British weather so frequently changing summer BBQ plans or catching us off guard ruining freshly-washed hair, it’s easy to see why global warming isn’t often taken as seriously as it should be. As a matter of fact, environmental reasons accounted for a mere 12 per cent of people that signed up for Veganuary in 2019, compared to 34 per cent that signed up for animal welfare, and 46 per cent for health reasons. Although it’s a slight increase from the 10 per cent in 2018, is it really enough to reflect how concerned we should be about the state of our planet?
Of course, vegans aren’t the only ones responsible for stopping climate change, but the impact that our lifestyle has is something that should be at the forefront of our campaigning. According to New Internationalist, if we all went vegan tomorrow, between 14.5 to 15.6 per cent of man-made global greenhouse gas emissions would be eradicated immediately. Researchers at Oxford University claim that removing meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce your food-related carbon footprint by 73 per cent. In a time when our future looks so dire, these monumental numbers should carry much more weight than they currently seem to.
In June, The Independent published an article which began by informing us that human civilisation as we know it may have already entered its last decades. It’s a terrifying warning to everyone on the planet; something that should make us ask ourselves, are we really doing all we can? Or, better yet, are we even doing the bare minimum?
When you consider many of the tips we are given to reduce our carbon footprint, it is absolutely indisputable that switching to veganism is one of the simplest and most inexpensive ways for an individual to reduce their damage on the planet. It does not require having to shell out for a new boiler, an electric car or solar panels, or navigate plans around bus timetables and train tickets. For the vast majority of us, in fact, becoming vegan has little-to-no effect on our daily routine at all, and is often much cheaper than an omnivorous diet. When we begin to consider veganism as the ‘bare minimum’, it can make us view the efforts people make to consume less animal products a little differently.
For so long, I beamed with pride at even the smallest efforts my friends and family would make towards achieving a less harmful lifestyle. It was only last month that I wrote about how having patience could often prove to be the best method of converting someone to veganism. Of course, any change that someone makes should be recognised and celebrated, and everyone’s journey to veganism is different. Someone once said to me, ‘If seven people started doing meat-free Mondays, it’s the same as one full-time vegan!’ and yes, it’s true – lots of small contributions will eventually equal a much larger one. But shouldn’t we be striving for seven full-time vegans? Isn’t that the least we can do?
The main problem I find with an ‘every little helps’ mentality towards veganism is that it encourages complacency from people that could very easily do more. Saying to someone, ‘Don’t worry if you feel like you just can’t give up cheese, switching to a non-dairy milk is a great start!’ is not untrue, but it certainly won’t push anyone to try harder. When the reality is that most of us could quite easily switch to veganism overnight, why do so many people consider baby-steps to be good enough? Perhaps it is in fear of coming across as too ‘militant’, or being accused of shoving our beliefs down the throats of others. Maybe it is because small steps in the right direction is better than not moving forward at all. More aggressive forms of activism have been highly criticised in the media; perhaps being gentle with people is truly the best way of converting them.
Whilst I can appreciate that telling someone that they aren’t doing enough might make them feel like giving up altogether, it is difficult not to become frustrated at lacklustre efforts. At first, I felt this way on behalf of the animals, clenching my fists as I heard people outraged at the latest case of a dog being abandoned by its owner while dismembered lambs and chickens resided in their own refrigerators. Then it was for health, as my friends complained of recurring pimples despite how often I said that giving up dairy completely cleared my skin. Now, with every news article that gets published about global warming, the latest species which has been declared endangered or how long the human race has got left to live, I find myself feeling frustrated again. Thankfully, the vegan movement is growing exponentially, so it seems as though more and more people are beginning to see sense with every passing year. I just hope that enough people take notice before the damage on our planet becomes truly irreversible.